Wood Floor Heating
For That Extra Comfort When Walking Barefoot
On Your Wood Floors
Wood floor heating involves putting electrical cables or hydronic heated water piping beneath
your floors’ surfaces to provide the heating for your house in the colder months of the year. Wood floor heating
systems create radiant heat. This means that the heat rises up from just below the surface of the floor, and then
gets captured by the flooring materials, which then release the heat evenly and slowly.
As the heat slowly releases itself from the flooring, it heats up objects in the rooms such as
chairs, tables, and couches. It also heats up people from the soles-upward. Eventually the heat dissipates entirely
- but not before it has kept all objects, and all people, toasty warm at a very comfortable level even in the
darkest depths of winter.
This means for you far, far less wasted heating energy than you have with
the standard forced-air ventilation systems of today. This means greater comfort. This means being able to go about
in stocking feet or even barefoot in perfect comfort in the middle of winter.
This means for you no "hot pockets" where uneven heating causes discomfort or extreme warping of
floors or walls or nearby objects. It means no "cold pockets" that feel as though you’re passing through a ghost
despite having the thermostat turned way up.
And since it is the soles of our feet that are most sensitive to temperature change, the fact
that they are the first parts of our anatomy getting heated by wood floor heating means the best possible comfort
and the most efficient heating possible. Greater comfort at lower cost - who could ask for anything more?
Pitfalls to watch out for
But let’s not mistake wood floor heating systems for Paradise (though they may feel like it to
you and your house guests!). Perfect’s not for real. We do have to be careful with the installation of wood floor
heating systems and understand some basic things.
Radiant wood floor heating systems have been around in modern times for decades, really. But
before the last decade or so, they were nice but fraught with a few serious problems, not the least of which was
floor board warping, especially in more humid or wetter climes. After all, just about all problems with regards to
wooden floors have to do with moisture.
It goes without saying that heating up water causes it to expand. Certain very fibrous woods
could have their lignin fibers significantly expanded by having the water trapped in them heated up through direct
or nearly direct contact with the cables or piping beneath the floor, resulting in significant warping over
Today, advanced electronics enable fine micro-tuning, on an automated basis, of the
thermostat(s) in a home with wood floor heating systems so as to prevent this kind of problem. Yet, this does not
mean that certain architectural and construction considerations should not be kept in mind.
For one thing, the more efficient the whole house is, the lower
the floor temperature needs to be to achieve the desired levels of warmth and comfort. Custom multi-material
windows and doors with low-E double or triple panes and excellent insulation make for a more energy efficient
home as much as wood floor heating systems do.
Typically the sub-flooring temperature is kept at 95 to 140 degrees (F) to provide the right
amount of radiant flooring heat for optimal comfort, which in itself is usually found to be 80 to 85 degrees
As you can see, there is a little bit of range-margin here, to account for different total house
efficiency. So you should not be expecting a wood floor heating system to have a set amount of economic savings
over what a forced-air vent system costs. It partially depends upon your home.
Then, let's consider the flooring woods that are the best for
radiant heating system installation:
Laminated or Engineered Wood Flooring
Wood species that have inherent dimensional stability
Rift Sawn and Quartersawbn Wood Flooring as they offer greater dimensional stability compared to plain
sawn wood flooring.
For wood floor radiant heating systems, narrow boards (2?"[56.7mm] or less) are the best choice
for solid wood flooring boards. At the top of this list are American Cherry, American walnut, mesquite, and teak,
although there are other ones, too. Brazilian Cherry and maple, however, are included in the unstable wood species.
These are designed to move slightly as a unit for accommodating moisture content changes.This has more dimensional
stability than solid wood flooring.
Keep these admittedly basic guidelines in mind when you consider radiant wood floor heating
systems for your home.